Infrastructure trumps entertainment -- Toews

JOYANNE PURSAGA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

A luxurious new stadium due in 2009 could be delayed or cancelled if the government doesn't buy in soon, says would-be owner David Asper.

Asper said his plan to secure $40 million from each of the provincial and federal governments for a new Winnipeg stadium must succeed "pretty soon" to keep the project on track.

And if leaders don't sign on, Asper said he can't go it alone.

"These are things the private sector can't do on its own," Asper said last night.

But Manitoba's most senior federal cabinet minister said the vision still needs to win fans among local government and residents.

Treasury Board President Vic Toews said many Manitobans simply aren't willing to see federal cash go to a new stadium at the expense of sewer, water and other "hard" infrastructure needs.

"In my riding, we have received absolutely no correspondence in favour of it but we have heard plenty against it," said the MP for Provencher. "And, quite frankly, I haven't heard one member of parliament say this stadium is a priority over sewer, water, roads and bridges."

Toews said his top infrastructure priority is the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg followed by road and bridge improvements.

Divert funds?

He said rural Manitobans are particularly concerned football cash could divert funds needed to clean water contaminated by E. coli.

"The language people talk to me is pretty blunt ... What they say to me is "you're telling me people in Winnipeg are going to watch football when I have s--- in my water?," said Toews.

Premier Gary Doer has indicated he would support the project but once stated he would prefer the province fund less of it.


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